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The previous discussions about Chapter 1 & 2 are available in the section “Good Reads”. Please, read the chapter 3 of the book first and resist the temptation to simply comment on the section I provide here. (I found a downloadable free copy here and a hard may be purchased here.)
Prof. Goldhill is convinced that the Temple-theme has firmly captured imagination of many people. The following is his retelling of the act of confiscation by the Israeli war government of the Temple Scroll during the 1967 War:
“Even the story of the scroll’s recovery brilliantly illumines the longing that runs through the hope of rebuilding the Temple. Like most of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Temple Scroll was found by chance by Bedouins – but fell into the hands of an unscrupulous dealer, Mr X. He allowed only tiny scraps that had fallen off the scroll to be seen, and tried to sell the whole mysterious manuscript secretly for a huge sum. The leading Israel archaeologist and future politician Yigael Yadin, whose father had been instrumental in recovering the first Dead Sea Scrolls to be found, was desperate to retrieve it: he negotiated repeatedly and unsuccessfully (and across several countries) with the dealer through an intermediary, Mr Z. After several years, all he knew was the dealer’s name.
In the 1967 war, Yadin was a leading military adviser, acting as the chief liaison officer between the prime minister and the minister of defense, Moshe Dayan. At the height of the battle for Jerusalem, he recalled that the dealer had a house in the Arab section of the city – until now unapproachable. After discussion with the prime minister and Moshe Dayan, he briefed a lieutenant-colonel of the Intelligence Corps with a description of the scroll and the address. The scroll was duly delivered by the taciturn officer during an intense meeting of the war cabinet discussing the attack on Syria. The scroll had been found under the floor tiles, damply rotting in a shoebox, along with further scraps in a cigar box. The scroll now has pride of place in the Israel Museum. The shoebox and the cigar box are both carefully illustrated in Yadin’s wonderfully dramatic account of his search.
In the course of the battle for Jerusalem, which brought the Temple Mount once again under the authority of a Jewish state, an officer is directed by the very highest authorities to save a cultural treasure which seems especially precious, namely, an ancient, marginal and extreme sect’s dream of a new Temple. This is a treasure not least because it is a sign and symbol of that time when the second Temple stood, itself so important to the different claims of legitimacy in the Middle East, claims being violently contested in the war itself.
What is most striking about Yadin’s story is the sheer complexity of how history, fantasy and the politics of yearning intertwine over the ages, and make the portrait of one man’s search so intriguing a mix of the political and the personal. Such is the strange power of the idea of rebuilding the Temple.”
What do you make of Prof. Goldhill’s take on this story? The floor is open. Speak your mind.